The Night Of — spoiler-free musings on pacing and promises

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Are any of you watching this show? Andy and I have seen 4 episodes — out of the 6 that have aired and the 8 that are planned — and I have thoughts.

First and foremost, there’s no question that the show is well-made. In particular, the acting, cinematography, and music are top-notch. I really love the intro/credit sequence.

In spite of the high quality, I find myself frustrated, and uncertain whether or not to commit to watching the rest. Mostly it’s an issue of pacing and promises.

See, the show is called The Night Of. It’s about a murder. (Sort of.) In the first episode, we see the chain of events surrounding that murder, and we meet our main characters — namely, the suspect and his lawyer. All of this sets the tone, sets our expectations. The title and the pilot episode say, very clearly, “Mystery.” 

However, the show is not actually about whodunnit. It’s just barely a mystery. It’s really about the criminal justice system. In fact, the original UK series was called just that: Criminal Justice. Not as sexy of a title — which is surely why HBO changed it for US viewers — but more straightforward and accurate. The story is a vehicle for exposing the contradictions, flaws, and dirty little secrets within our legal system. That’s all very compelling, but it’s not what I was promised.

Edit to add: Oh, I didn’t even mention my issue with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who captivates our “hero,” lures him to doom, and then dies, leaving us with basically no prominent female characters… #fridged for #manpain #sigh

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4 Comments

  1. This is, I’ve always thought, one of the most difficult things to do — promise one genre and then deliver a different one. It can be magnificent when done well, but I expect that it’s more likely to succeed when it’s a part of the original artistic conception rather than a decision by the marketing department.

    • Yeah, there’s a difference between giving the audience something unexpected but fitting, vs. pulling a switcheroo. I’m honestly not sure what side of that line The Night Of falls on — and the fact that I’m not certain is part of the frustration.

  2. I’m watching this show, and I’m obsessed, lol. But I understand your frustration and agree with you that the set-up of the first episode + the title change sets up a different expectation for what the show is actually about. I’m still invested though because while the focus is on the criminal justice system, there’s still investigation into the crime and suspects on-going.

    I feel like there’s just enough tension and character drive for me to keep me hooked where other perhaps more straightforward, high quality crime dramas (like Gracepoint, adapted from the UK’s Broadchurch) didn’t have that for me (not enough interest in the characters for me and paced too quiet & slow).

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